This post includes a mixture of LGBT+ and LGBTQ+. We refer to the organisation of 'LGBT+ History Month' but use LGBTQ+ to refer to communities.
LGBT+ History Month started in 2005, and takes place every February in the UK, with the aim to expand the education of LGBTQ+ rights. Until 2003, it was illegal to ‘intentionally promote’ homosexuality, create content with the aim of promoting homosexuality, and promote ‘the acceptability of homosexuality as a pretended family relationship’ in any state school. This was due to Section 28 of the Local Government Act 1988. Section 28 was a homophobic piece of legislation proposed by Margaret Thatcher, which prevented teachers from teaching LGBTQ+ relationships within sex education, and discussing or highlighting prominent LGBTQ+ figures for children.
The act also emboldened other institutions who presented a discriminatory bias against the LGBTQ+ communities. On a personal note, the only thing that I can remember from my sex ed lessons was not anything useful, but being told that we could ask anything apart from ‘gay relationships’, because of a decision by the school governors. This was shortly after the repeal of Section 28 in a religious school. A school which had chosen to maintain the censorship of LGBTQ+ existence, because its homophobia had been supported by the legislation for so long.
Although it was repealed nearly 17 years ago, Section 28’s legacy is still reflected in education across the country. The Stonewall School Report found that only 17% of school students felt they had seen a health representation of LGBTQ+ relationships in their education, and 40% of all students had learnt nothing about LGBTQ+ history in school (Stonewall, 2017).
This isn’t to say that progress hasn’t been made. Mainstream events and projects are taking place that seemed almost unthinkable during the stronghold of Section 28. Projects such as No Outsiders, which caused mass protests in Birmingham last year. No Outsiders is a programme for primary aged children which supports the teaching of kindness and understanding of diverse communities; including supporting the normalisation of LGBTQ+ relationships. Fantabulosa is a family friendly outdoor arts piece, performed by drag queens. The show toured major outdoor festivals and was supported by Without Walls. It introduced children to books which included LGBTQ+ characters or families, and just 16 years ago - would have been illegal.
This is why LGBT+ History Month is important. LGBTQ+ equality is slowly moving forward in the UK, but we still teach the history of the movement poorly and we are still navigating our way out of Section 28’s legacy.